Brain activation during compassion meditation: a case study

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):597-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0309.


Objectives: B.L. is a Tibetan Buddhist with many years of compassion meditation practice. During meditation B.L. uses a technique to generate a feeling of love and compassion while reciting a mantra. The aim of the present study was to investigate the neural correlates of compassion meditation in 1 experienced meditator.

Methods: B.L. was examined by functional magnetic resonance imaging during compassion meditation, applying a paradigm with meditation and word repetition blocks.

Results: The most significant finding was the activation in the left medial prefrontal cortex extending to the anterior cingulate gyrus. Other significant loci of activation were observed in the right caudate body extending to the right insula and in the left midbrain close to the hypothalamus.

Conclusions: The results in this study are in concordance with the hypothesis that compassion meditation is accompanied by activation in brain areas involved with empathy as well as with happy and pleasant feelings (i.e., the left medial prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate gyrus).

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Emotions*
  • Empathy / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Meditation* / psychology
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychophysiology